Famous Historical Essay Writers

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Essays are literary pieces of work where the author presents his arguments and reflections. They express the author’s personal views, making them exciting and enjoyable to read. Many topics can be written in the form of an essay. Some of those can be about social issues, politics, literary criticisms, human rights, education, environment, and more. Also, a great essay can be more famous compared to a good novel. Some of the most popular genres of an essay are non-fiction, comedy, history, romance, biography, current events, and personal reflection.

Many famous American writers have introduced the world’s best novels which also accomplished popular essays. Some of them describe one’s life, while some represent history during their time. Famous historical essay writers have contributed significantly to the development of literature and the art of the essay, spanning from ancient times to the modern era. Their works encompass a wide range of subjects, including politics, personal reflections, society, and human nature. Here are some of the most notable essayists:

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 – 1940)

(Pictured – F. Scott Fitzgerald circa 1923)

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald is a famous U.S. short-story writer and novelist. He was born on September 24, 1896. His works were able to help illustrate the flamboyance and excess of the Jazz Age. During his lifetime, he was able to write 164 essays out of four collections of short stories that were published in popular American magazines. He was also the author of the popular novel, “The Great Gatsby”, which was turned into a film. Some of the other famous works of Fitzgerald are “This Side of Paradise” and “The Beautiful and the Damned”.

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)

Ernest Hemingway Writing at Campsite in Keny
Ernest Hemingway Writing at Campsite in Keny

Ernest Hemingway, an American journalist, and novelist, was born on July 21, 1899. Of all the writers in U.S. history, he was referred to as the true master of words, because he introduced the shortest essays or stories made of just six words. He was an American genius with a unique style of writing which is copied by lots of modern artists today. Ernest Hemingway’s essays are all very easy to read because he didn’t present new topics or useintricate words. Some of the most famous essays written by Ernest Hemingway that you can read are, “The Garden of Eden”, “In Our Time”, “The Sun Also Rises”, and “The Old Man and the Sea”.

James Baldwin (1924 – 1987)

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.(Author James Baldwin and actor Marlon Brando.)
Civil Rights March on Washington DCAuthor James Baldwin and actor Marlon Brando

James Baldwin, an American novelist, and playwright, was born on August 2, 1924. He wrote essays that explore details of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most particularly in mid-20th-century North America. All of these essays explain that all people must be equal. These essays are collected in “Notes of a Native Son” which was published in 1955. Some of the other popular essays he had written are “The Evidence of Things Not Seen”, and “The Price of the Ticket”.

Susan Sontag (1933 – 2004)

Photo portrait of Sontag, 1966
Photo portrait of Sontag 1966

Susan Sontag was an American writer, teacher, philosopher, filmmaker, and political activist from New York City, and was born on January 16, 1933. When Susan was young, she had imaginary friends from books and famous American novels. She had written many essays but also published novels. Her first major work was the essay, “Notes on Camp” in 1964.

She studied at Harvard University, where she learned English literature to obtain a Master of Philosophy. However, when she was in Oxford, she faced serious gender concerns and issues in her initial essays. That’s why she moved to Paris to release the rest of her essays being pressed in America. Two of the popular essays written by Susan Sontag that you can read are, “Against Interpretation” and “Regarding the Pain of Others Styles of Radical Will”.

David Foster Wallace (1962 – 2008)

David Foster Wallace was born on February 21, 1962. He was an American writer and university professor of English and creative writing. He was a passionate philosopher who also loved literature. He used literature as the tool to cure regular depressions as well. However, David died due to a prescribed medicine, but he was able to share his best works with the public. Some of the best literary pieces he wrote are, “Television and U.S. Fiction” which is a funny story, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, and “Consider the Lobster”.

Robert Atwan (1940 – Present)

Robert Atwan was born on November 2, 1940, in New Jersey.He’s an essayist and editor of a number of anthologies of literature. He went to Seton Hall University and Rutgers University.During his lifetime, he focused on writing short stories. He compiled “The Best American Essays” as part of Houghton-Mifflin’s Best American series. Some of the literary works of Robert Atwan are, “Great Moments in Literary Baseball” and “Poems and Essays”.

William Faulkner (1897 – 1962)

William Faulkner 1924 publicity photo
William Faulkner 1924 publicity photo

William Faulkner was an American writer born on September 25, 1897. He wrote novels, short stories, screenplays, poetry, essays, and a play. He was one of the most celebrated writers in American literature, and at the age of 52, he earned the Nobel Prize. Some of his most popular literary pieces are, “A Rose for Emily”, “The Sound and the Fury”, “As I Lay Dying”, “Red Leaves”, and “Dry September”.

Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

A French Renaissance writer who popularized the essay as a literary genre. His collection “Essais” covers a wide array of topics, using his personal reflections to understand humanity.  The “Essais” cover a wide range of topics, reflecting Montaigne’s thoughts on human nature, philosophy, education, friendship, love, and death, among others. Through his essays, Montaigne aimed to explore himself and understand humanity, making his writing deeply personal yet universally applicable.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

An English philosopher and statesman, Bacon is considered the father of the empirical method. His essays are known for their wisdom, concise and aphoristic style, covering subjects from politics to science.  “Essays” (First published in 1597, then expanded in 1612 and 1625) – A collection of essays that covers a wide range of topics, from public life and politics to private virtue and wisdom.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

An American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century.  “Nature” (1836) is considered the foundation of transcendentalism, where Emerson lays out the principles of the movement, emphasizing the importance of nature and the deep connection between the natural world and the human spirit.  “Self-Reliance” is his most famous essay which advocates for individualism and personal integrity. Emerson argues that reliance on oneself and trust in one’s instincts are crucial for spiritual independence and success.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941)

Virginia Woolf 1927
Virginia Woolf 1927

An English writer and one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century, Woolf’s essays, such as “A Room of One’s Own” and “The Death of the Moth,” are known for their feminist themes, lyrical prose, and the exploration of the human psyche.

George Orwell (1903-1950)

An English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic, best known for his novels “Animal Farm” and “1984.” His essays, like “Shooting an Elephant” and “Politics and the English Language,” critique social injustice and totalitarianism, and discuss language and truth.

Montesquieu (1689-1755)

A French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher. He is famous for his articulation of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. His essays and works, including “The Spirit of the Laws,” have had a profound impact on political theory.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

An English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer. His essays, published in “The Rambler,” explore morality, literature, and society.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

Henry David Thoreau, ca 1855
Henry David Thoreau ca 1855

An American essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, Thoreau is best known for his book “Walden,” a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay “Civil Disobedience,” an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

These are some of the famous writers in American history. When you read their works, you will be able to see and have an idea of how an essay and a short story is written well.  These essayists have shaped the course of literary and philosophical thought with their insightful and often groundbreaking works. Their essays continue to be studied and revered for their intellectual depth, stylistic innovation, and moral fervor.

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